Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is threatening to withhold more than $1 million in law enforcement funding from one of the largest counties in his state unless its newly elected sheriff reverses a plan to refuse to comply with federal immigration law.
In a letter to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, Abbott said her new policy puts at risk $1.8 million in grants from the Texas Criminal Justice Division, money that is contingent on a county cooperating with federal immigration officials. Abbott called Hernandez’s policies “dangerous,” “shortsighted,” “reckless” and “frivolous.”
If Abbott withholds the grant money, it would be the first time Texas state government has sanctioned a county for refusing to cooperate with federal officials.
Hernandez said last week that county law enforcement officials would stop complying with requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees while federal immigration checks are conducted.
The proposal, which would take effect in February, would make Travis County — home of 1.1 million people, the University of Texas and Austin, the state capital — one of the state’s largest sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, for example, handles federal detainment requests on a case-by-case basis, a practice Abbott equates to a sanctuary policy.
Abbott has said Hernandez told county officials that her office would no longer comply with state law requiring counties to obey federal requests. County sheriff’s office employees will be prevented from inquiring about the immigration status of most inmates, except those who are accused of the most serious crimes.
Hernandez made the sanctuary policy a cornerstone of her campaign for sheriff this year in heavily Democratic, heavily Hispanic Travis County. Hernandez won the job in November, capturing 60 percent of the vote.